Following the appointment of the Rt Hon Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton to the role of Foreign Secretary on 13 November 2023, we submitted evidence to the Procedure Committee inquiry into the options for MPs to effectively scrutinise Secretaries of State in the House of Lords and the work of their departments.
How does Parliament govern itself? Who controls the business and procedures in both Houses? Which individuals and bodies provide leadership, and how are their powers distributed? Do MPs and Peers have sufficient resources to perform their legislative and scrutiny functions?
The King’s Speech is the vehicle through which the Government sets out its legislative programme for a new Session of Parliament. The Speech is the central element of the State Opening of Parliament. The King’s Speech may also be referred to as the 'Gracious Speech'. It is written by the Government; the Monarch simply reads it out. However, the references which the Monarch makes in the Speech to 'my Government' reaffirm the constitutional fact that, formally, the Government is the King's Government and is appointed by him.
State Opening is the ceremony that takes place to formally mark the start of a new Session of Parliament. It is a historic ceremony rich in constitutional symbolism. Most importantly, it is the only regular occasion on which all three of Parliament's constituent elements – the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons – normally meet together.
After the King's Speech has been delivered, each House must respond to it. This response takes the form of a 'humble Address' from the House to the King, thanking him for the Speech. The debate on this motion is properly called the 'Debate on the Address'. The debate lasts for several days in each House and provides an occasion for a wide-ranging and constitutionally significant discussion about the Government's policies and programme.
On 18 October Austria’s former Federal Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is due to go on trial accused of giving false testimony before a parliamentary investigative committee. In the UK there has been a live debate for some years about what Parliament should do if Select Committee witnesses are thought to have given false evidence. Compared to the UK, how and why are the proceedings of Austrian investigative committees more closely linked to the courts, and what challenges has this posed?